(often called simply Robotron
) is an arcade game
created in 1982
by the company Vid Kidz
and Larry DeMar
) for Williams Electronics
. It was unique at the time in that the controls were two 8-way joysticks
(one for running, one for shooting) rather than the more typical single joystick and fire button.
Each level, or “wave”, of Robotron consists of a small humanoid mutant ("the last hope of mankind"), representing the player, in the center of a swarm of enemy robots. The player uses the two joysticks to simultaneously move away from the enemies and dodge their shots with one, while firing back at them in the direction of the other. Once all the destructible enemies are eliminated, the player progresses to the next wave, facing increasingly faster and more numerous enemies.
Scattered around the playfield are slow-moving “humanoids” to rescue, clones of the last human family consisting of Mommy, Daddy and Mikey. Touching each of these clones before they are killed by Hulks or Brains earns the player 1000 to 5000 points, progressively in steps of 1000, which resets to 1000 points if the player dies or the “wave” changes. The game is not winnable so death is an eventual certainty, but an extra life is earned every 25000 points, making rescuing humanoids an important objective.
The enemies the player must face throughout the game are:
- Electrodes (0 Points). These are non-moving objects littered throughout the area. Although their threat is minimal, they can be hazardous, since the player will die when running into one. They can be destroyed but are worth no points.
- Ground Roving Unit Network Terminators (GRUNTs) (100 Points). These simple-minded foes simply move towards the player. They do not shoot, but tend to appear in large numbers, and move progressively faster throughout each wave, making them dangerous on the whole. They are the only robotron that can be destroyed if they come in contact with electrodes. Wave 9 and every ten waves after have huge numbers of Grunts.
- Hulks Boxy green robots that move randomly around the screen. They cannot be destroyed by any means, but can be pushed around slightly by firing at them. While they do not intentionally chase the player, they do attempt to block the player from firing at other enemies, particularly Sphereoids. They do not need to be shot to complete a wave. Hulks kill any humanoids they make contact with. They also destroy electrodes if they come in contact with them.
- Sphereoids [sic] (1000 Points). These round, red objects move quickly and produce Enforcers. Sphereoids are deadly to the touch, but their real danger lies in the several Enforcers they produce over time, so it is best to shoot them immediately. Eventually Sphereoids disappear on their own, after creating perhaps a half-dozen Enforcers.
- Enforcers (150 Points). These yellow robots shoot rapid shots aimed at the player. While not much of a threat individually, when enough are in the game field they are very hazardous. They also have a tendency to zoom across the screen, causing death upon collision with the player. Like the Brains and tanks, they shoot things that seem to be another kind of cruise missile (25 points)
- Brains (500 Points). These slow, blue enemies infest every fifth wave, which also contain large numbers of humanoids. Although easy to shoot, they fire large numbers of tenacious, unpredictable “cruise missiles (25 Points),” which are difficult to escape. They also turn humanoids into Progs (100 Points), fast-moving agents of destruction that mercilessly home in on the player.
- Quarks (1000 Points). These are boxy, pulsing objects that produce Tanks in large numbers. Note: In an early version of the game, Quarks were referred to as "Cubeoids" in Attract mode. This was corrected in later production runs.
- Tanks (200 Points). These red beasts fire quick, basketball-like bouncing shots at the player that are very hard to avoid. Due to game hardware limitations, Tanks will stop shooting if there are a total of 20 shots fired currently on the gamefield, without a single tank being destroyed. If a tank is destroyed, this counter will reset to zero.
In 1984, Eugene Jarvis
and the Vid Kidz
followed up Robotron: 2084
with another arcade game, Blaster
. Although the gameplay differs, it takes place in 2085
, when the robotrons have eliminated the human race.
Like Tempest, it mixes brutal, high-speed gameplay and psychedelic graphics. While several ports were produced (including a version in 1996 for the PC, Robotron X for the Playstation, and Robotron 64 for the Nintendo 64 in 1998), the original arcade game is considered by many to be the best version. A direct port of the game was included in Midway Arcade Treasures, a compilation of arcade games for the Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox consoles, released in 2003.
The Atari 5200,Sony Playstation 2 , and Apple II ports are the only versions that recreate the arcade's 2 joystick control mechanism. On the 5200, this is made possible by a plastic holster which holds two controllers in parallel to be used simultaneously. The Playstation 2 port uses the two analog sticks on the bottom of its controller. The Apple version offers a keyboard/joystick combination or two regions of the keyboard to emulate the two joysticks (the legendary Castle Wolfenstein also uses this scheme.)
In July 2000, Midway licensed Robotron: 2084, along with other Midway games, to Macromedia Shockwave for use in an online applet to demonstrate the power of the Shockwave web content platform. The conversion was created by Digital Eclipse. It is currently freely available to be played within the Shockwave web applet.
In November of 2005, Microsoft started to offer Robotron: 2084 for download over their Xbox Live Arcade service as of the launch of the Xbox 360. Added benefits in this version include high-definition optimised graphics and two-player cooperative multi-player over Xbox Live. In cooperative mode, one player controls the movement and another player controls the firing. The roles are switched after each round. In addition, scores can be tracked through an online ranking system.
Smash TV is a similarly-played game with updated graphics and the same dual joystick (one for movement, one for firing) setup.
History and trivia
- The original name for the game was "2084 - Robotron", but the name Robotron was more commonly used by virtually everyone involved, and the game was renamed shortly before production. This is why the cabinet side artwork simply has the number 2084 vertically.
- The inspiration for the dual-joystick control (left to move, right to fire) came from an injury Jarvis sustained to his right hand in a car accident. The game "Berzerk" also played a role, for Jarvis envisioned being able to move and shoot without having to stop (Berzerk uses a single joystick, the player has to stop moving to aim and fire).
- The original conception of Robotron was a real-time version of the classic UNIX game "Robots". Originally written in BASIC, the original iteration had the player attempt to lure robots towards electrified barriers that would destroy them. Over time the ideas of firing back, multiple robot types, saving humans, etc. were added.
- If a player completed 255 levels/waves the game "waves" would then start over again at wave 1.
- One of the game adjustments a game operator can make is "Fancy Attract Mode On/Off". This removed the rotating marquee from the attract mode title page. The adjustment was included in case the DMA hardware overheated and crashed the game during the attract mode. It fortunately turned out to be unnecessary, and was rarely if ever set.
- Stephen Notley's Bob the Angry Flower comic strip for March 10, 2006 was named "Robotron 2083" referring to the arcade game - the implication being that the seeds of the robot revolution were planted a year beforehand by the title character.
- Total production is estimated at 18,000 units. The upright cabinet style is common. Both the cabaret (or mini) and cocktail styles were produced in much lower numbers, one estimate citing only 500 cocktails produced.
- Robotron 2084 is the "favorite game of all time" of game designer Eugene Jarvis, game designer Mark Turmell (NBA Jam and Smash TV), and musician/producer Todd Rundgren.